As a business owner, I regularly deal with outside vendors. The most natural thing is to ask for referrals at some point after the sale or, in many cases, several times after the sale.
Some never stop.
Here’s the problem: Sales reps who get referrals from me don’t need to ask. They have earned them in advance, and I offer them without being asked.
Let’s go one step further: when I am so happy and pleased with a product, service or the quality of customer support I have received, I can’t wait to tell others about it! And that’s where most of my references come from.
Reference requests range from the coy, “Do you have someone you think I could call?” to the insistent, “I’ve done a good job for you, so you better give me some references,” to everything else.
As I’ve already mentioned, people who get referrals from me never have to ask. You have earned them in advance, and I am happy to provide them to you.
In my books I talk about the concept of doing such a good job for your clients that they stop thinking of you as a salesperson. Instead, they see you as a trusted advisor. Once you reach this level of customer satisfaction, you’ll likely never have to do any sales prospecting again, because people will be begging to meet with you.
What most sellers don’t understand is that people want to buy their products!* Yes, they really want to buy! Despite all the confidence-destroying lesson on “how to handle objections” that every corporate sales program teaches (a lesson that makes salespeople expect objections and therefore get objections), many people want what you want. have. Probably more than you think.
And guess who has access to those people? Yes, your existing customer base! It only makes sense that they have access to similar people. Business owners hang out with other business owners. Doctors hang out with other doctors. And so. Make a customer very happy, and that customer will talk about you whether he asks for a referral or not.
I recently moved and had to find a new dealer to fix my car. There are two in the city. One is ten minutes from my house and the other is more than thirty minutes. I chose the latter and drove this far because a trusted friend recommended them to me.
More importantly, they told me to stay away from the other dealer because their service is terrible!
Your clients will also give you good references, if you act for them. If you don’t meet their expectations, they’ll tell people to stay away.
There’s one situation where you really can’t do much: If you work for a company that has lousy service, you’re in a tough spot. I’ve been there too: I worked in the telecommunications industry for several years, which is notorious for its lousy customer service. If you are in that position, look for a new job. If you need to find a new industry, go for it. It’s not that hard: the selling skills are the same no matter what you’re selling. Human nature never changes, and it’s not that hard to learn a new product line.
Remember, if you deserve referrals, you never have to ask for them. Do the right thing for your customers and they will do it for you!
*NOTE: There is a problem: you have to sell a product that people really need and want. For example, I left the telecommunications industry when I was denigrated by saying, “We can save you $50 on your monthly phone bill.” Few small business owners can be bothered to take time out of their day to save such a small amount of money. And most know that cheap services are bad services. If you are representing an outdated product or a dying industry, it is your responsibility to re-educate yourself and find a new job before you find yourself unemployed.